Monday, September 12, 2005

Maliqi: Overcoming the vacuum

Express carries an op-ed by analyst Shkëlzen Maliqi, who says UNMIK was not at all bothered by Kosumi’s confusing explanations about his return trip from Turkey.

I would say, says Maliqi, that the main reason for not bothering is the crises the UNMIK administration has found itself in.

The international administrators have simply fallen into depression before the end of their mission, because UNMIK is soon expected to be replaced by another international mission. This, according to Maliqi, could happen around the end of 2005. Jessen-Petersen, too, whose one-year contract has expired, seems to have agreed to extend his contract until the end of the year until the defining of the new mission and the leaders of the negotiation leaders takes place.

The editorial states that Jessen-Petersen has recently shown a lack of initiatives and engagement. Perhaps he is waiting for consultation he will get on 20 September in New York on how and how fast to proceed with the agenda of the final status solution. Until then, Maliqi says, Kosumi’s Government will benefit from this situation of waiting, and relative indecisiveness, ignoring criticism from the Opposition and the media.

But, this small vacuum in the politics of the decision-making centers towards Kosovo, does not represent a sufficient protection for the current Government.

The formula would be found in the support of the PDK for the current LDK-AAK coalition provided LDK agreed that PDK chairs the negotiations. This is the formula for real compromise and it would ease tensions and create more room for commitment by the political entities and experts to contribute in projects of general interest and not to act under the umbrella of political parties, concludes Maliqi.


Anonymous said...

* the modern Albanians were not mentioned in Byzantine chronicles until 1043, although Illyria was part of the Byzantine Empire, and since the Illyrians are referred to for the last time as an ethnic group in Miracula Sancti Demetri (7th century AD.), some scholars maintain that after the arrival of the Slavs the Illyrians were extinct. [3]
* (see the Jireček Line) it is believed that most inhabitants of Illyria were Hellenized (the Southern part) and later Romanized (opponents say that some Illyrians were not Hellenized or Romanized, but maintained their own language, which may have been a proto-Albanian language). [4]
* most Illyrian toponyms, hydronyms, names, and words have not been shown to be related to Albanian, and they do not indicate that Illyrians spoke a proto-Albanian language (opponents say that many of these toponyms, hydronyms and names are Hellenized and Romanized; whether the change in form is dramatic or not is hard to know in a number of cases).
* ancient Illyrian toponyms (such as Shkoder from the ancient Scodra, Tomor from ancient Tomarus) were not directly inherited in Albanian, as their modern names do not correspond to the phonetic laws of Albanian [5]
* a number of scholars believe that Illyrian was a Centum language, though others disagree. If Illyrian was Centum, then it is unlikely that Albanian (which is Satem) is an Illyrian language [6]


fact said...

Well that is not a shock since Alferon paid for the flight and the deal for the nickel sits with the EU and not the UN. Sell Sell Sell! I assume the PM had a little dealing, or gave a helping hand to close the deal.

Anonymous said...

Extract from Of War: Letters to Friends / Von den Kriegen: Briefe an Freunde, published by S. Fischer, Frankfurt am Main (2004)

Kosovo, 1999

Dear friends,

I have been back for two weeks.

I do not know how to answer the questions about my time in Albania and Kosovo. The experiences are present; the images, the smell, the sound – everything is clear and yet it is impossible to transform it into an adequate and intelligible narrative of horror.

We wish to believe that we are able to defuse threats by giving them a name. Rumplestiltskin loses his power when we guess his name. But sometimes Rumplestiltskin rages even when we know what he is called. Sometimes words cannot banish feelings, and their failure only increases our sorrow.

Maybe I simply don’t know where to start.

There: in the refugee camps where the deportees were stuck, the men silently sitting on the field, smoking, covered under coloured woollen blankets; the women bent over plastic buckets, washing the only clothes they had, there: on the fields where the corpses were decaying in the sun, in the hospitals with this inimitable smell of disinfection and death, there: on the overflowing marketplaces, in the devastated mosques – there we all had the same horizon of experience. We were all stuck in this world of pain and destruction. Within this context, all these horrifying scenes made “sense.” Of course, it all seemed unreal, and yet it was simultaneously too real for us to permanently call it into question. Our conversations and gestures were embedded in this context. It was a life within the same radius of violence.

Only now, back in Berlin, now when I am about to talk about that time, does its absurdity strike me. The experiences there are somehow separated from reality here, and it feels a bit like when I was a child at my grandmother’s and we would make biscuits, cutting out shapes in the dough. Maybe that is why journalists are considered disturbed cynics: because the reality that they describe is so disturbed.

That is the burden of the witness: to remain with a feeling of failure, of emptiness because even the most accurate account does not grasp the bleakness of war.

The task

We were in Tirana when the peace agreement was signed: the Serbian delegation agreed to pull out within 48 hours after the settlement from Kosovo and to withdraw to what was left of the Yugoslav republic. The air bombardment of the NATO alliance had lasted 78 days during which they flew attacks against government buildings in Belgrade, against positions of the Serbian army in Kosovo – but also against civilian targets: bridges, factories, power stations, the television station of Belgrade and various refugee treks, “collateral damage” as the propaganda unit in Brussels would call it.

At the end of the war, we travelled with the ground troops that had been inactive so far and the thousands of Kosovo Albanian refugees returning to Kosovo.

Our team in Kosovo included our Albanian driver Kuijtim Bilali, his nephew and our translator Noni Hoxha, Joanne Mariner from the organization Human Rights Watch from New York, whom we had met in the refugee camps in Albania, the photographer Sebastian Bolesch and myself.

We remained two more weeks in the war torn Kosovo and then travelled throughout the entire region. We saw how the young men – who had been hiding in fear of the Serbian militia – returned from the mountains. We saw the famished Kosovo Albanian prisoners with sunken eyes tied together on a truck. They were supposed to be hostages from kidnappings in Serbia, but now they had been forgotten. We saw how the Kosovo Albanians celebrated the end of the repression. We saw everywhere how the Serbian units had raged: burnt down farmhouses, demolished minarets of the village mosques. We saw the mutilated corpses where the Serbian myrmidons hadn’t had time to erase the traces of their deeds and to bury their victims. We saw the Serbian troops on their withdrawal, drunk from stolen booze. But we also saw Serbian civilians fleeing out of fear of revenge. We also saw the neighbourhoods of the Roma standing in flames.

Death and destruction

Since my return people ask me: “How do you cope with what you witnessed? How do you digest all the experiences?”

The answer is: you don’t.

There are certain impressions you cannot “digest.”

The sight of a seventeen year-old girl in the hospital of Prizren in Kosovo. She had been shot by a sniper the day before the allied forces entered Kosovo. She had a brain injury and urgently needed to be transferred to the hospital in Prishtina. Since that night she had been staying in a room with five badly injured men: Serbs, KLA-fighters and Albanians, the enemies of the war united in one overheated room.

You could hear her breathe.

She would probably die within the next five hours because the hospital could not transfer her to Prishtina – the Serbian troops had stolen the only ambulance for their flight at the end of the war.

The sight of a charred back of a dead catholic Albanian between hundreds of books in his house in Koronica. The muscles in the shrunk body were still recognizable – it looked like one of those charts from biology class where all muscles of the human body are schematically displayed. Except: the man in Koronica was brown-black, his burned flesh was porous and looked hairy like scratchy fur. Arms and legs were missing. Maybe they had been cut off, maybe they were burned completely, maybe it had been the dogs...

The Homeric heroes in the Iliad have less fear of death than the thought of being left unburied – outside the city walls – at the mercy of stray dogs. It always seemed rather strange to me that a living person would have to worry about his corpse being ravaged by dogs. I could not imagine a world in which dogs would run around with human limbs in their mouths.

It was the brother of the dead who brought us to this package of withered flesh. He walked from one room to the other, in a destroyed house, and talked as if it was still intact, and as if that bundle on the floor still had anything in common with the human being he grew up with.

And one does not digest: the sight of corpses without heads, cut off body parts, contorted bodies that had been pulled behind a truck for miles (also like a quote from Homer); the sight of bloated or burned corpses, some two months old, one week, one day.

And there is this one image I cannot forget: the foot of a male body that we found in a ravine on a field near Meja. I still remember those five centimetres between the black leather shoe on his right foot and the blue cotton trouser, a peasant uniform as I would get to see in the following weeks so often when looking at dead civilians. The corpse had been lying there apparently since 27 April.

In the meantime it had rained, and it had been hot as it can be in a Yugoslav summer. And there is one particular part of the image that haunts me, a small detail: those five centimetres between the tied shoe and the seam of the trouser. Without the clothes that proved that this had once been a man, there was only five centimetres of dead, living flesh. Nothing else.

And there was this sound, very quiet, first unnoticed, and then so penetrating in its repulsiveness that no taboo, no shame could repress my hearing it: a number of parasites was eating the rest of a human being.

And I cannot forget the ten year-old girl in Gjakova who stood in front of the burned out ruins of her former house and could not say two complete, intelligible sentences. She spoke without pausing, as if her speech was making sense. She did not stutter or hesitate, she formed one incoherent sentence after the other.

Finally we understood that in this house her father, her brother, her aunt and two cousins had been killed. Her uncle and her two other brothers had been arrested by Serbian units and deported the day before the arrival of NATO troops.

She told us, her father had fallen off the roof when celebrating the long-awaited NATO intervention. He had broken his leg and could not move when the Serbian soldiers arrived at their house. They had told the girl and her mother to leave the house – and killed everyone else in it.

I cannot forget how she stood there in her pink shirt, in front of her former living room wall, slightly oblique because the floor was no longer flat. And I cannot forget that she could not speak properly, and that she occasionally only stared at us and then continued to speak. And that she did not seem upset at all.

She was quiet and calm, and only every now and then did she seem irritated – when she realised that she did not know that trick anymore, the trick that someone had taught her, years ago, in another time: how to form sentences and makes sense to others. Then she paused and suddenly felt like a stranger to herself, and then she seemed to tell herself that these words that came out of her mouth were unintelligible.

Many journalists only arrived in Albania or Macedonia when the peace agreement was signed. But we had already been acquainted with the terrible events. We had been writing since April on the refugees and their fate, we had been listening to them: how their sons and husbands had been killed, what they had done before the crises began, where they used to live, how they were expelled, how many hours they had walked till they had reached the border, when they had last seen their brother, where they were standing when a Serbian officer pulled a woman out of the refugee trek, how they had been hiding in a barn.

At the end of the war, when we entered Kosovo, we knew exactly where to go and what to expect there. We had a map of killing in our minds – even before we arrived at the places of the massacres.

But that meant that we could not relate to those tormented bodies as neutral bystanders towards anonymous corpses. But after weeks of interviewing survivors in the camps in Albania, photographer Sebastian Bolesch and I knew the story of many of the dead, we knew whether their wives or children had survived on the other side of the border.

It also meant that we could imagine the corpses before us as fathers and brothers, as peasants or writers. We could imagine their previous lives, and sometimes we knew the relatives in Albania.

Impossible to gain distance.

But it was also conciliatory: to remember the real person, the living father or brother or cousin or neighbour; to ask for their story and narrate it; to recreate in writing a world that was supposed to be destroyed; to give each of these stinking, faceless bones a name again and not to turn one’s back.